12 September, 2016

Fyans' Ford

Today at Fyansford, the residential development which is Gen Fyansford seems to be racing along with new houses popping up everywhere. However, this section of the river flats overlooking the Moorabool River has not always been a residential area and on his Fyansford.com website John Flatt asks the question "is the Gen Fyansford Estate built on a quarry?" No, he decides and I agree. So, after finding some interesting snippets whilst researching my previous post about the Fair View Hotel which used to stand on the hill above, I thought I'd have a look at what uses the land which now comprises Gen Fyansford has been put to over the years.
Gen Fyansford map taken from GENFYANSFORD.COM.AU
The area in question is shown in the above diagram taken from the Gen Fyansford website and includes land both east and west of the Moorabool. I looked at the history of the quarry to the west of the river in a previous post, so will only deal with the land east of the river this time.
The earliest residents of the Fyansford region were of course the Wathaurong. At various times of the year, they used the rocky bed of the ana-branch between the Barwon and the Moorabool Rivers as an eel trap. The Wathaurong name for the area at the confluence of the two rivers was Bukar Bulac meaning "the place between two rivers" and as it was for the early European settlers, a shallow section of the Moorabool about one and a half kilometres upstream from its confluence with the Barwon was a natural crossing point.
The first European settler to take up residence along the banks of the Moorabool River at Fyansford was of course Captain Foster Fyans himself. But where exactly did he erect his hut? (Another question also asked by John.)
It is widely known that Fyans set sail for Port Phillip in September, 1837, taking with him, a dozen convicts and four staff with whom he established a camp at the spot which soon became known as Fyans' Ford. Pinpointing the exact location of that first settlement is a little more tricky, however there are a couple of sources at the Geelong Historical Record Centre which shed some light.
Captain Foster Fyans. Image held by the State Library
of Victoria
James Riley was a 17 year old English immigrant who travelled to Australia in search of land and opportunity. With letters of introduction to Captain Fyans, he made his way across the Werribee Plains to Fyansford where, for want of an inn, he was invited to stay with Fyans himself. An article written by Roy Holden and contained in his "Fyansford History Notes" (held by the Geelong Historical Records Centre), recounts a letter in which Riley recalls his stay with Fyans and describes the hut as well as its location:
"It is built of slabs well plastered, and the roof, instead of bark (like the Van Dieman's station), is grass covered outside with clay to prevent its blowing off or taking fire.
"Inside for a ceiling a large Union Jack was stretched from corner to corner - thus our own country's banner forming a shelter for our heads.
Fyans' Hobby
"There was a turning lathe in one corner, and small pictures of which there were many, hung around the room, the frames of which the old gentleman had amused himself in making, and which were really well done.
"There were spears, swords, armor and curiosities of all kinds exhibited on the walls. The hut is situated close to the River Moorabool, about one mile from its junction with the Barwon,.."
So, according to Riley, Fyans' hut was located on the Moorabool almost a mile from its confluence with the Barwon. At the beginning of the article, Holden indicates that the hut was on the east bank of the river, but oddly, states that it was a short distance downstream of the "current" bridge which is only three quarters of a mile from the confluence and yet, a grainy photograph from the same compilation of notes by Holden perhaps appears to indicate a site closer to the ford, as suggested by Riley.
Looking upstream from the Fyansford Monier bridge towards the ford and
possibly the site of Fyans' hut 
If Riley's estimate of the distance was the more accurate, then the hut would have been located close to the ford - the original crossing point at the time of Fyans' residence in the district - which would seem a logical location to position his hut and the tents of his men.
Fyans did not spend long at the site which would become the township which bears his name. Riley noted in his letter that once the "barracks" were built (presumably at Geelong), the camp would be disbanded. Whether this also included the removal of Fyan's hut or not, I do not know. On the 1st January, 1840 he was appointed Police Magistrate at Portland Bay, taking him away from the district at that time.
His tenure at Fyansford however was only the beginning. Within a few years, the site he had chosen to make his camp had become a thriving village.

1 comment:

  1. Another very special thread in Fyansford's rich tapestry. Thanks, Jo!